Boxers or briefs? For men who want to be able to conceive, a new Harvard study says one kind is better than the other.
Boxers have long been regarded as better for men's fertility, but this new study from Harvard's T.H. Chan School of Public Health essentially makes it official.
Ending The Boxers vs Briefs Debate
Wearing briefs can lead to increased temperatures of the scrotum, which in turn can lower a man's sperm count, according to Jorge Chavarro, an associate professor of nutrition and epidemiology at Harvard and author of the study, which was published Aug. 8 in the Human Reproduction journal.
Researchers observed 656 men over 17 years, and they saw that semen quality was related to the type of underwear they wore.
"Guys who wear boxers had higher sperm concentration than men who wore more tightly fitting underwear," concluded Chavarro.
He also explained that those who wore briefs had higher levels of follicle-stimulating hormone, which he claims to be the body's attempt to push harder for sperm production.
The study was conducted between 2000 and 2017, and involved men who came to Massachusetts General Hospital as part of a couple experiencing fertility problems. The men provided information such as their underwear of choice, and also gave sperm and blood samples for analysis.
"Whether underwear choice affects sperm production has been a topic of research for several years," Lidia Mínguez-Alarcón, research scientist at Harvard and another author of the study, which she said is the first to investigate whether a man's underwear affects testicular function as measured in a number of ways, including reproductive hormones and DNA fragmentation.
Is Wearing Boxers Better For Your Sperm Count?
The men who wore boxer shorts had 25 percent higher sperm concentration, 17 percent higher sperm count, 33 percent more swimming sperm, and 14 percent lower levels of follicle stimulating hormone than the men who wore briefs and other close-fitting shorts, according to the researchers.
Even still, they found no significant differences in DNA damage or other reproductive hormones between the two groups.
Despite the seemingly conclusive results, Mínguez-Alarcón said it might be far from definitive.
"It may not be possible to generalize our findings to men from the general population." She added that one weakness of the study is the fact that the researchers lacked information on a number of crucial things about both groups of men, including types of trousers worn, fabric of the underwear, and many others.
Still, it's the only study that looks into the association between fertility and underwear of choice that involves a huge sample size, according to Mínguez-Alarcón.